We get a chance to drive the new-for-the-U.S. subcompact Chevy CUV at the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Smooth shifting automatic
Low rent interior
Poor rear visibility
Joining the crowd
One of the advantages of being a global vehicle manufacturer is the ability to snag a vehicle from one market and insert it in another as customer tastes (and gas prices) ebb and flow.
Such is the case with the Chevrolet Trax, which has been performing yeoman's work in other parts of the world (including Canada) as well as here in the U.S. under the guise of the Buick Encore nameplate since the 2013 model year.
With the American appetite for ever-smaller crossover vehicles yet to be satiated, the Trax is now set to join its Buick sibling this year, where it is set to battle the likes of the Nissan Juke, Jeep Renegade and Honda HR-V as well as the upcoming Mazda CX-3.
So what are our first impressions?
2015 Chevrolet Trax LTZ AWD
The 2015 is available in three trim levels (LS, LT and LTZ) in either front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. The model Chevy made available for us to drive was the high-zoot LTZ with AWD.
Outside, there's no mistaking the Trax for anything other than a Chevrolet, as it proudly wears the brand's requisite split front grille bracketed by a pair of oversized, if not stylized, headlamp enclosures.
The side view features pronounced front and rear fender arches along with mild upper and lower character lines. In back, the "V"-shaped hatch is flanked by a pair of triangular taillamps. There's also a small upper spoiler above the rear window, wide horizontal chrome trim strip above the license plate and brushed aluminum lower valance trim to make things interesting. Oddly, the flat black rear bumper matches the wheel arch trim, not the body-colored, painted front bumper.
Inside, the controls are simple and straightforward, the highlight being a standard 7-inch color touch screen with Chevy's intuitive, next-gen MyLink infotainment system. The front seats are both firm and supportive, done up in leatherette, and sport the two-tone color scheme found throughout the cabin. The only issue we had is that much of the slick-looking interior trim is, in actuality, pretty hard and plasticky, giving even the uplevel LTZ trim a bare-bones, entry-level feel.
Thanks to a fairly high hip point and moderate beltline, views out the front and sides are excellent. Views out the rear three-quarters and back, however, are hindered by the Trax's sloping roofline and relatively small rear window. Adult passengers in the back seat only exacerbate a bad situation, with the rear headrests intruding even further into the rear window's parsimonious real estate.
Under the hood
Under the hood is an aluminum head turbocharged 1.4-liter DOHC inline-4 with a somewhat dated iron block that produces 138 horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 148 lb.-ft. of torque at a mere 1,850 rpm.
This engine is paired to the only transmission available, albeit a fairly decent traditional 6-speed automatic.
So how does it all work?
On the road
Although initial acceleration is brisk, the turbo four runs out of steam fairly quickly. Trust us when we say that this is not a vehicle you'll enjoy carving corners with. Since it's derived from the Sonic subcompact, we were expecting the ride to be a little sportier, but it's not. The trade-off here is the fact that the Trax's suspension feels smoother and more controlled, although the ride can still get jittery over rougher road surfaces.
There's also a fair amount of road, tire, wind and engine noise entering the cabin, especially at higher speeds.
But we should also point out that, on the plus side, there's a decent amount of feedback through the steering wheel and it's easy to modulate the brake pedal.
2015 Trax pricing starts at $20,995 for a FWD LS example and can top out at over $27,000 for a fully optioned and accessorized LTZ with AWD. This Orange Rock Metallic LTZ AWD tester was very close to the top that, when all was said and done, had an MSRP of $25,905, which included an $875 destination and handling charge.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot to like about the 2015 Chevrolet Trax. It has a smooth ride for its size and it's fairly quiet – at least in around town driving. The engine and transmission also work well together and there's a decent amount of feedback through the steering wheel and the brake pedal.
On the other hand, the interior, though slick-looking, mainly consists of hard plastic surfaces, giving it a low-rent feel. In addition, the ride, though more composed than the Sonic, still feels jittery over rough road surfaces.
In the end, although it's priced competitively with others in its class, the cheap-looking interior, ordinary styling and average handling only lands it mid-pack in the current crop of subcompact crossovers.